YARMOUTH, Maine — The kayaking grandma who departed for Guatemala last summer is back on track after having surgery in January.
Deb Walters, a resident of Troy, left from Yarmouth in July 2014 on what was supposed to be a year-long trip to Guatemala to raise money for Safe Passage. Her plans changed due to a spinal injury she sustained from paddling.
Walters, 64, had paddled about 1,500 miles and had made it to South Carolina when she needed emergency surgery. While recovering during the spring and summer she still managed to make it to Florida and Guatemala by sailboat as part of her scheduled speaking tour.
Now Walters is headed back to where she left off in South Carolina to continue her paddle to Guatemala. The trip was 65 percent complete when she stopped, and she now has about 1,000 miles to go.
“It was a tough decision to go back and paddle the remaining 1,000-plus miles of the expedition route,” Walters wrote on her blog. “But when I thought about the grit and determination of the children and parents at Safe Passage, I realized I had no choice.”
While Walters has a passion for kayaking, she also deeply cares about Guatemalan families who have to salvage through garbage dumps to survive. She first became involved with volunteering in Guatemala through Safe Passage, a Yarmouth-based organization that helps families who forage in the dump.
After years of volunteering in the country and making two to three trips a year, Walters decided to kayak her way there to help. Along the way, she has been stopping in cities and towns on the East Coast to inspire others to help, too.
“To properly honor them, I need to push myself and paddle on, and continue to share their stories,” she said.
Walters left from Georgetown, South Carolina on Sept. 24, and is scheduled to arrive in Key West, Florida in February. She will then take a boat to Belize, where she will continue paddling to Guatemala. She is scheduled to reach her destination in April.
Walters last July said she won’t be spending as much time in Guatemala as she usually does, but she’s looking forward to working with families when she arrives. Her main goal is to build additions to schools and add more grades, so the Guatemalan children can continue their educations.
So far on her trip Walters has raised more than $400,000 for Safe Passage.